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We’re gearing ourselves up for news soon from Virgin Mobile on Friday’s improved offer from NTL. The cable operator raised the terms of its earlier indicative offer for Virgin Mobile from 323p a share to around 360p in cash or an equivalent sum in shares. This values the mobile phone group at £930m. However, the minorities wanted a bit more and will get closer to 372p because Sir Richard Branson is prepared to make up the difference. Both sides have been negotiating all weekend and there is a chance that the details of the offer may have changed slightly since Friday. In the meantime, Virgin Mobile shares are drifting.
Shares in Standard Chartered are up 8.5 per cent on hopes that it will receive a takeover approach from JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup or Bank of America. The excitement seems to have been sparked by a rather vague story in yesterday’s Observer but someone clearly thinks it has legs - there was heavy volume in the stock this morning. We’re obviously looking into it. For sure, since the Khoo family patriarch died and dispersed his 13 per cent stake, Standard Chartered has looked vulnerable. But it is also one of those stocks which is too expensive when everyone wants south east Asian exposure, and only cheap enough when the region is in the dumps. That said, analysts at Cazenove are advising clients not to discount the rumours. Which is interesting: Cazenove is house broker to Standard Chartered and is owned by JP Morgan, one of the likely bidders.
Here’s a rare one: good news today from Eurotunnel. The Channel tunnel operator today reported a 1 per cent rise in operating revenue last year to €793m but said freight traffic dropped. With a January 31 deadline looming for the conclusion of debt restructuring talks, this is helpful. But this also occurred in the same year that ferry services to and from Calais were severely disrupted - not something that is highlighted in the statement.
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